You are right: to say that I perceive my thoughts is misleading in this context. But if you ignore that, the rest of the post should be valid.Gertie wrote: ↑March 29th, 2018, 4:17 amWell the notion of an 'I' perceiving its thoughts, would mean the 'I' is something other than its experiential states. Something which doesn't itself think (an experiential state), but does perceive (an experiential state) its thinking. So such a claim would require a lot of explanation, not to mention evidence.
When I say that I perceive my thoughts I am saying that I reflect them. This is exactly what Descartes did. If I were Descartes, I would think this way: I have a perception of a bird. I have a thought of my perception of a bird. These are my experiential states. But my having these experiential states is not itself an experiential state. So I have thoughts, and this ordinary language expression tells us the situation clearly enough. That I have thoughts means that my thoughts are mine only, although I can speak about them with others.
Now when I reflect or perceive my thoughts, I find out what happens when I think. I see the situation as a totality. And the totality is this: I am conscious of the world. This totality consists of a “holy trinity”: (1) I am (2) conscious of (3) the world. None of these components of the whole can be removed without destroying the totality. So the “I” remains if the world remains. And if the world is something that necessarily exists, also I must necessarily exist, although not as the individual subject I happen to be.
This means that the “I” is an abstraction. I cannot be without my being conscious of the world and therefore without the being of the world. But in connection with the world I am concretely in the world. This is how the “I” exists. And this is why it must be presupposed. Because it is an abstraction without empirical content, there is no empirical evidence of it, but it can be detected in a phenomenological intuition, as Descartes did. And we must also presuppose it on logical grounds, because a thought needs a thinker, although not necessarily as an active agent.
So when Descartes concluded “I think, therefore I am”, he had an insight, as he reflected his own thinking, that his thinking and his thoughts must presuppose the being of something that he called 'I am': that subjectivity is fundamental as an ontological precondition of all thinking and all being whatsoever. Subjectivity transcends thinking and this transcending can be seen through thinking, by reflecting our thinking. That is why the subject, in its deepest meaning, is transcendental.
Another way to define the “I” is to say that it is the present abstracted from its content. In this way it gets connected to subjective time.
This is also the meaning of the sentence that I have repeated many times: If I did not exist, there would be nothing.